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Minnesota Legislature rushes to pass budget bills

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/07/MahurinPolitics_Thumb1.jpgBetween late afternoon Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Legislature passed budget bills that will fund more than $35 billion in state government and end the 19-day shutdown. Most lawmakers, however, didn’t have time to read the bills, which were only made available hours before the votes.

The plans, which Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to 10 days into the shutdown, were opposed by most DFLers, who voted against them en masse. The final versions contained far fewer cuts than the versions that Dayton vetoed three weeks ago.

The transportation bill, for instance, avoids the sharp 85 percent cuts to the Met Council, but backfills much of the cut with increased costs to suburban transit. Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) called it a “duct tape and bailing wire fix” in a statement.

Little time to read bills

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) complained that lawmakers hadn’t had time to assess the impact of the environmental bill, which includes what she described as subsidies for factory farmers.

“All session we’ve been told that the outcome of this session is going to be efficiency, reform, redesign,” she said on the House floor. “There’s been no efficiency, reform or redesign — just budget cuts and shifts with no idea of how these cuts are going to affect the environment.”

Most bills, some of which sprawled to hundreds of pages in length, were made available to lawmakers only right before their vote.

“They’re just being posted, the public doesn’t know what’s in them, most members probably haven’t read them,” said Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul). ”Decisions were made in closed-door meetings, in my mind in violations of the open meeting law.” But the sticking point, as it has been all session, is taxes. Republicans opposed all DFL efforts to increase taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents. Instead, the state relies heavily on one-time fixes like a school payment shift and tobacco bonding, which Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) described as “dangerous and irresponsible.”

The tax bill was posted only two hours before the vote.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) accused Democrats of being “preoccupied with raising taxes,” saying the DFL forgot they had a job to do.

Dean said he wished more Democrats would have crossed over to vote for the budget bills to “be part of the solution.”

“We need to get Minnesota back to work we need to stop pointing figures,” Dean said.

A ‘beg, borrow and steal’ budget

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said the 2011 legislative session represented a “colossal failure of leadership on behalf of Republicans.”

“This is a Republican proposal, a Republican budget for which you are responsible,” Thissen said. “It borrows and steals from Minnesota’s future and begs the people of our state to look the other way as once again you simply kick the can down the road.”

DFLers said the one-time accounting gimmicks in the bills meant that the next legislature would again face a more than $4 billion shortfall, and that the massive cuts contained in the bill would lead to increased property taxes across the state.

“You didn’t do your job because you didn’t protect the people’s interests. You protected the richest’s special interests,” Thissen told Republican lawmakers. “You didn’t do your job because you didn’t solve the problem — you begged, borrowed, and stole.”

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